Collaboration required to avoid a humanitarian disaster
Amsterdam, Juli 17 2022– The human tragedy that continues to unfold in Ukraine has shocked and saddened us all.
What has also become clear is the suffering will be magnified as the repercussions are felt across the global food system. Simply put: the war has knocked the global food system – already strained as a result of COVID and climate change – off its axis. We risk turning this humanitarian disaster into a massive global food crisis unless we urgently collaborate on tangible steps to address the impact head on.
According to the UN Global Crisis Response Group, food shortages, fuel price hikes and the debt burden brought on by the war in Ukraine can severely impact 1.7 billion people across 107 economies.
We need to stabilize our global food system quickly, consciously and sustainably. Countries worldwide, weakened by the pandemic, need clear-headed partnerships between the global agriculture players, the up-and-coming innovators, governments, and NGOs. Now more than ever, this cannot be the undertaking for one organization alone.
We must all play a role, and as a global leader in agriculture, Bayer has a responsibility to act.
As the impact on food supply ripples out from Ukraine, we are activating our resources and network to address three key priority areas: supporting Ukrainian farmers, stabilizing supply in the Middle East and East Africa, and ensuring long-term climate-adaptability.
The war hit Ukraine’s agricultural system during the spring growing season. Ukrainian farmers have worked around the clock to maintain their crops in the conflict zone, but they are expected to harvest less than half of the usual 80 million tonnes of grain this year.
We have donated 40,000 bags of seed to grow food on nearly 30,000 hectares.
The seeds will support 1,250 small farmers in Ukraine who have difficulty in accessing input for the 2022 growing season.
Sadly, this will be a drop in the ocean if the free flow of food, fuel, and fertilizer out of the region is hampered.
In parts of the Middle East and East Africa that rely on Ukraine and Russia for grain, food supply chains have already been directly disrupted.
The UN has reported that food prices grew by 34 percent in the year to March, with cereal prices increasing by 37 percent.
These impacts, acutely felt by the most fragile countries and communities, will not be solved with more barriers or export restrictions. Food protectionism should play no role in our world today.
We continue to call for safe import corridors as well as for more humanitarian aid. Countries must release their grain stocks on the market and support the hunger relief efforts of the UN World Food Program.
Farmers in many parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia are struggling to maintain their harvests. Spiraling costs, fertilizer shortages, and severe weather are working in concert to erode profits and reduce abilities to increase production.
Bayer is halfway to meeting the goal it set itself in 2019 to support the productivity of 100 million smallholders by 2030 with training, guidance, and access to innovative seed and crop protection tools.
And as an industry, we must inject targeted resources to smallholder farmers, to support the vital role they play and dampen food volatility. This is why we made a 160 mn USD commitment to the Zero Hunger Private Sector Pledge dedicated to end hunger.
Bayer’s commitment will go toward communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Lastly, we must plan and act to ensure climate resilience in global agriculture. Farmers must grow more food using fewer resources. This is not an easy feat; it requires innovative leaps in plant science, digital technology, and crop protection.
Firms like ours are already investing in these more resource-efficient, carbon-smart agricultural solutions, on our own and increasingly with others.
For example, short-stature corn is much better at withstanding extreme weather caused by climate change and can help to ensure the food supply for millions.
We also need a priority focus on fertilisers, developing biological alternatives to artificial fertiliser. Not only is artificial fertiliser responsible for four percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but its supply is heavily dependent upon Russia. We are accelerating our work and partnerships in this area.
(Read also about new developments regarding Indonesia’s agriculture and water security)
But as we look to the potential of increasing collaboration with innovative biotech pioneers we must ensure that we communicate the positive environmental benefits that come with these innovations, working in partnership with public institutions and NGOs.
As corporate leaders we must rise to these challenges. We must work together, work quickly, and renew our focus on the long-term objective of a safe, sustainable supply of food.
Food needs to sit right at the top of the global policy agenda.
This is a crisis that cannot – and should not – be tackled alone.